Opinion

Sponsors vote with their dollars

Ryan Lochte
Ryan Lochte's mischief and lies at Rio are questioned by letter writer.
— image credit: Contributed, Rory photo

Don’t you enjoy news stories of bad guys who bring on their own punishment? Like the U.S. Olympics swimmer, Ryan Lochte, who  vandalized a Rio gas station washroom with three younger pals and then claimed they had been  extorted and robbed.

Apparently learning to be a first rate swimmer  takes muscle, technique and dedicated training, but not necessarily smarts.

His alibi had more holes than a beginner’s knitting project. For one, even in the poorer areas of Rio, video-recording smart phones wait everywhere ready to document any action, good or bad. Plus the gas station was well surveyed by its own security cameras. So it didn’t take more than a few moments to turn up visual evidence of the four Americans leaving the gas station and a clear trail of their destruction behind them.

Lochte also discounted the video record showing the four men returning to the Olympic Village wherein Lochte was still wearing his wrist watch and in possession of his wallet. Some robbery indeed.

Then to baldly fabricate a story for the police, and go on to perpetuate and embellish it in two follow-up interviews with Matt Lauer on NBC’s The Today Show ... What was he thinking? Or was he?

He excused himself as drunk, celebrating after a rigorous competition; said he had made an immature decision; and he had “over-exaggerated” the seriousness of the story he had spun for Lauer.

Not only did he cower from owning up to what had in fact transpired, he embellished his story claiming a loaded gun had been held to his forehead and he had been ordered to hand over his valuables.

He also forgot he had three accomplices, all much younger, none of whom was as keen to wriggle out of responsibility for their damage. Their stories didn’t jibe with Lochte’s.

Further adding to his guilt, he hightailed it back to the U.S. beyond reach of Brazilian authorities.

Earliest news reports downplayed his crime as little more than mischief by a kid, though he’s in his early 30’s and has participated in several summer Olympics prior to Rio.

Not only did his invented alibi make Rio look like a nest of thugs, he embarrassed the entire U.S. athletic teams in Rio with him and gave Olympic authorities a huge headache. An Olympics spokesperson was hard pressed to chastise Lochte’s behaviour after a top Olympics executive had been charged with scamming tickets.

Just when it looked like he might be let off as a thoughtless prankster, Lochte’s sponsors took decisive action, severing lucrative contracts. He won’t be the macho man on Speedo ads, or the charmer for four other products that netted him a $10 million annual income.

The other shoe will drop later for this swimmer in a few weeks when U.S. officials may go so far as to cancel his participation in all future swimming competitions.

A second news story with a similar outcome involved the Ohio spear hunter who baited and killed an Alberta black bear. He and his wife own a sport fitness store.  Thanks to his barbaric hunting method, nonetheless legal in Alberta, and posting of his wife’s video on YouTube, Under Armour, a clothing line, cancelled their corporate sponsorship of the couple’s business.

After an investigation, Alberta Conservation has concluded the spear hunter broke no laws but the public uproar has convinced the government to outlaw spear hunting this fall.

In both cases corporate sponsors promptly expressed the public’s abhorrence by withdrawing their dollars. If only laws were as swift and decisive.

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